Overview -The information provided here describes some of the latest technology available in hearing aids. Hearing aid technology has been advancing rapidly over the last few years. These new technologies do not add complexity to hearing aids, but do the exact opposite and allow the hearing aids to adjust to different environments without the need for the users intervention. The main focus of this technology has been to increase the user's understanding of speech in all listing environments, including some of the most difficult listing environments. Only a few years ago environments with loud and varying sounds in the background were a challenge for hearing aids with respect to separating speech from the background noise. Now the technology has advanced so far that in some cases the hearing aids are actually better in difficult listening environments than normal hearing. Some historical information provides perspective regarding the current state of hearing aid technology.
Analog Hearing Aid Technology - Analog technology was the basis for hearing aids up until the mid-1990s. This technology was not very flexible and had limits on clarity. Analog instruments amplify all sound essentially the same. Whether you are hearing someone speak, dishes clanking or water running, the circuit basically amplifies sound. Even though the hearing aids were adjusted for an individual's hearing loss they were not anywhere near as specific as today's technology. One of the major problems with analog technology is that it had a major problem separating speech from background noise. In most cases it equally amplified all sounds and made it very difficult for users to understand speech in restaurants, places of worship, work environments, windy outdoor situations and many other environments with background noise. Analog aides have been replaced by digital technology. Digital technology provides much greater flexibility, faster reaction times, more controllability and much better clarity. For these reasons all leading manufacturers have eliminated analog amplifiers from their hearing aid models and replace them exclusively with digital processing technology.
Digital Technology - All of the technology features discussed below are available because of digital processing. Compared to analog hearing aid technology it provides much greater clarity, accuracy, processing speed and software control.
Water Resistant - Many manufacturers are moving toward technology that is water and sweat resistant because it can cause a hearing aid circuit to fail. Saltwater is one of the greatest dangers to electronic components. Perspiration is saltwater and has been a major cause for hearing aid failure. An IP67 rating means instruments can be immersed in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes without compromising the integrity of the circuit. There are no interruptions in performance with showering or exercising. This rating also protects instruments from dirt and dust. An IP68 rating allows instruments to be continuously immersed in water without damaging the circuit.
Focusing On the Speaker - The goal has been to improve speech understanding in all settings. Now many instruments are so intuitive that they adapt to your surroundings automatically, simulate normal hearing and help you understand speech in any environment. This is accomplished with directional technologies that will focus narrowly on a single speaker even in extreme noise.
Speech in Noise - Some manufacturers have developed technology which has been proven to deliver better than normal hearing in extremely noisy situations or in wind. The intelligence of the circuit will reduce noise and process speech from one hearing aid to the other to give you the best binaural hearing possible. Some technology even separates the processing of speech from other sounds. Special features in compression technology allow those to hear again in frequencies where they normally wouldn't be able to hear.
Car and Worship - Some of the latest technology is able to actually recognize your listening environment. For example it can actually recognize that you're in a car and makes specific adjustments to allow the user to hear speech from any location within the car. There is technology that will automatically reduce reverberations or echo that are often present in worship settings or large group environments. This significantly improves speech understanding.
Tinnitus Therapy - Tinnitus also known as "ringing in the ears", is a sound that is heard constantly or almost constantly. Approximately 20% of the population suffers from this symptom. Tinnitus therapy technology is available in hearing aids to provide treatment and relief for those who suffer from this annoying and sometimes debilitating condition.
Recharge Ability - RIC (Receiver In the Canal) and BTE (Behind The Ear) hearing aids can now be recharged every evening. This technology relieves the user from having to be concerned about changing and acquiring new batteries many times throughout a year. A charger also provides a convenient place to store your hearing aids when they are not in use. Using a charger instead of standard disposable batteries requires that the user change batteries only once a year.
Trainability - Some hearing aids feature Learning technology and can be trained to sound the way the wearer likes to hear in particular environments. When the user makes changes the circuits monitor and assess the environment, store the changes you make and will automatically adjust when the wearer returns to that environment. Certain manufacturers have such advanced Learning capabilities that the instruments will automatically respond and adjust to the sound of a specific voice.
Phone Apps - Smart phone apps are now available that replace a remote control for your hearing instruments. The app will control volume changes, program changes, the ability to engage a narrow focus on a speaker in any direction and change tonal quality. There is no need to touch your instruments or for anyone to know you are wearing hearing aids. To everyone else it looks like you're checking your email or sending a text.
Bluetooth - Many hearing aids are now Bluetooth compatible. Allowing the use of the manufacturers Bluetooth remote control device to manage your connection with a cell phone, television, iPod, car or any other Bluetooth device. You can now hear, in stereo a cell phone call, music or television program directly through your hearing aids. No need to put a phone to your ear or to wear headphones or earbuds. Smart phone apps for controlling your Bluetooth interface are also available.
Custom Hearing Aid Design - Custom hearing aids are hearing aids made specifically for the user and are worn in the ear. A World First in custom shell design from Siemens allows directional features to suppress surrounding noise and focus on speech with a single microphone. Custom Completely In the Canal (CIC ) or Invisible In the Canal (IIC) instruments now have this capability. Before this technology was only available in larger hearing aids with a multi-microphone system. The innovative design also allows more volume or capacity in smaller hearing instruments.
Sound Amplifiers - Almost everyone has seen advertisements on television, newspapers and magazines for low cost devices in the range of $29.00 to $499.00. These devices are generally listed as a "personal sound system" or "personal listening device" or other creative descriptions. Note that they do not use the words Hearing Aid. The advertisements often lead you to believe that these devices could be used by someone with a hearing loss, this is not true. Often these products are mass-produced in Asia and cost the retailer less than five dollars. The FDA categorizes these devices as sound amplifiers. Sound amplifiers and are not intended for the treatment of hearing loss. Sound amplifiers are for recreational use by individuals with normal hearing. Hearing aids are a medical device designed to treat hearing loss. The United States Food and Drug Administration regulate and approve hearing aids. We only offer quality namebrand hearing aids that are regulated and approved by the FDA. Click on this link for more information from the FDA about hearing aids and sound amplifiers.